** template ** Strategic Legal Technology <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, October 31, 2003

Decision Making: Lawyers versus Business People

This week I was at the Legal Tech conference in Chicago to present on knowledge management. One the first day, I attended the keynote address by Christine A. Edwards, a partner at Winston & Strawn. Until recently, she was the General Counsel of Bank One Corporation and, prior to that, of Morgan Stanley. She gave a very good talk about "Accountability at the Speed of Thought," which dealt with the role of technology in compliance, what GCs need from technology, and the role of tech decision makers.

She made what I thought was a very interesting distinction between how lawyers view decisions and how business people do. While the comment was in the context of technology decisions, it applied more generally. Ms. Edwards said that when business people face something new, for example, a new product or expansion opportunity, they ask "What are the benefits and the costs and how will this help our strategy and bottom line?" In contrast, she has observed that when lawyers are faced with something new, they inevitably ask "Who else is doing this?"

And therein lies a big problem with how law firms decide. Rather than assess decisions on their own merits as businesses do, they look left and then look right, then decide. Given how they make decisions, one has to wonder why they think there is safety in following their peers - do they simply assume peers have done the analysis better?

I have confirmation of this phenomenon from a friend who works for a tech company that sells some infrastructure-type products. He said a couple of years ago they were going after legal. I said it was a tough sell. His response was yes, but if we manage to get two of the top firms, the rest will follow. And he was right. In this instance, it was probably a good decision all around.

But firms that want to gain competitive advantage from the application of technology to their practice and serving clients need to behave like businesses, not lawyers.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

More Lessons from Medicine, this Time for Inhouse Counsel

Regular readers of my blog have seen several posts that draw lessons for the legal market from developments in health care. I have previously suggested that lawyers adopt "best practices checklists" (as the ICU at Johns Hopkins has) and that they demonstrate that their tried and true practice techniques are actually effective (as doctors are increasingly doing with "evidence based medicine," which is based on solid, clinical empirical evidence).

On Tuesday, October 21, 2003, the Wall Street Journal carried a fascinating article called The Real Drug Problem: Forgetting to Take Them. Only about 50% of people take prescription drugs as instructed, a problem that cuts across income and education lines. Compliance can be low even where lives are literally at stake.

Various efforts are underway to understand and correct this problem. One caught my eye as having potential lessons, this time primarily for in-house counsel. I was struck by what Kaiser Permanente is doing. Its pharmacy analyzes refills of asthma drugs. "It then alerts doctors when patients appear to be refilling medication that gives immediate relief to acute attacks more often than they are refilling the long-term medication to prevent attacks in the first place."

This prompted me to wonder if there are any law departments that are able to track the type of advice they give - long-term or preventive versus acute or crisis - and draw inferences from the mix as to how business managers are behaving. For example, in spite of compliance training programs, it may be that some managers are regularly getting into avoidable legal problems. Undoubtedly, inhouse counsel have a decent gut feel for this, but it would be interesting to see if one could sufficiently fine tune a matter management system to achieve the same effect in law as Kaiser Permanente is doing with drugs and asthma treatment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

NJ Passes New Court Rule on E-Discovery

In New Rule on Discovery of Computerized Data the New Jersey Law Journal (October 23, 2003) reports on what may be an important new rule concerning discovery of digital data in federal cases brought in New Jersey. This rule does not yet seem to appear on the Court's own web site.

According to the article "Local Rule 26.1(d), requires lawyers, at the very start of a case, to review their clients' computer and information management systems 'to understand how information is stored and how it can be retrieved.'" The article reports that parties need to try to reach agreement on the preservation, scope, types of media, and who bears the cost of discovering digital data.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Clients Paying for KM – Part 2 – Market Forces

One of my legal technology friends saw my posting What if Clients Were to Pay for Knowledge Management (23 Oct 03). In this posting, I suggested that it makes sense for general counsels to pay for law firms to perform a matter de-briefing or post-mortem for KM purposes. My friend relayed an experience in which he proposed this idea to the GC of a large company. Here is what he reports:

“My last direct encounter on this idea with the GC of a large company was so stunning that I have been somewhat at a loss ever since. His basic position (repeatedly stated) was that it is not for GCs to find ways for their vendors, including law firms, to become more efficient and effective. GCs ‘have enough other things to worry about.’ He believes market forces will achieve the desired outcome and repeatedly referenced his great faith in the market. For him, the “market” meant the cost-quality mix that directs work to increasingly lower priced vendors as the means to ensure improvement in services.’ My effort to redirect the conversation to explore the benefits that might accrue to his own staff, including career-development points (i.e. items he was then lamenting) were to no avail. This, too, he believed, would improve due to market forces. I left the encounter wondering which of us was smarter and questioning how many other major GCs held to a position which, to me, seemed very simplistic and painfully reactive. I believe in markets, but I want to see change faster than his model would seem to allow."

Regular readers of my blog know that I generally believe in market forces. I am not sure, however, that I accept this GCs perspective. Certainly any GC is free to direct legal work to the outside counsel he or she sees as best or most cost-effective. My question is very simple: by what metric does or any other GC measure quality and cost? I am not aware of any rigorous approach to measuring cost and quality trade-offs for law firm services. And to the extent that some law department have devised measures, my guess is that the extra cost of the KM debriefing, because it is likely to be such a small percent of the total bill, would be lost in the statistical noise of the analysis.

There is another serious weakness in this GC’s argument. He or she is not considering a kind of externality – that the market is not currently providing his or her law department with crystallized know-how that could be re-used and therefore lower future costs. If law firms are retained only once, they certainly have no incentive to invest the extra day or two to prepare a de-briefing. Only the client has the incentive aligned with this goal.

It may be that there are good reasons for GC not to pay for KM de-briefings, but the GC who put forth this argument seems, in my opinion, to be taking an ill-considered view of the question.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Thoughts on the Paucity of Online Legal Services

Why are there so few commercial online interactive legal advisors (online legal services)? One explanation is lack of demand. This seems unlikely. Both corporations and consumers are desperate for affordable advice and, unlike lawyers, seem not to care who provides it or how. Lack of an appropriate software platform is almost certainly not the explanation. Document assembly systems and expert systems are well-established.

Another explanation is that the expense to build interactive legal advisors outweighs the return. Translating legal expertise into software is hard work; so are marketing, distribution, and maintenance. It seems likely however, that for "horizontal" legal topics - those that affect every business such as employment law - the size of the market would cover development costs. Is there someone who could develop and profitably market online advisors?

Law departments – the natural customers and users of such systems – do not typically have the people or budgets to develop systems on their own. They cannot amortize development costs over a big enough base. Law firms have the domain expertise but lack the “knowledge engineering” skill to translate the expertise into systems; they also have no marketing and distribution capability. Legal publishers have the competency and resources to create online advisors. That they have not suggests either that they think sales would not cover development cost or that they have better investment opportunities.

Enough law firms have experimented with online advisors that it is not clear many more will. A legal publisher could yet step forward. Or an entrepreneur might find a way, for example, by partially funding a development effort via pre-paid subscriptions from large law departments. The market has been very slow to develop but could “tip” very quickly – one demonstrated success could cause a rush into the space.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

What if Clients Were to Pay for Knowledge Management?

Many large law firms are trying various approaches to knowledge management (KM). The goal is to capture and re-use know-how. In a meeting of KM professionals earlier this week I had an "aha" moment....

First, two observations/concerns:
(1) I have always been concerned that without tying KM efforts back specifically to client-facing activity, that law firms will not continue to support KM.
(2) Most in-house counsel struggle with how best to capture and re-use the work product and expertise of their outside counsel.

The "aha" moment is that inhouse counsel should cause their outside counsel to create "debriefings" at the conclusion of most large matters. Such debriefings would require some or all of the lawyers who worked on a matter to:
- Summarize the matter, probably using a series of pre-defined questions
- Collect the final version of the most important documents, and, where necessary, explain in a cover sheet how the document relates to the matter
- Explain how this matter relates to other work the firm has done for the client
- Provide a list of the lawyers and any outside experts or consultants who worked the most on the matter

Clients could benefit directly from this type of KM effort, especially if they asked all their outside counsel systematically to perform such debriefings (sometimes called "post-mortems"). There would, of course, be some issues to resolve such as the most appropriate way to store and access this information.

So how should the client cause this to happen? One could argue that law firms should do this as a client service. But realistically, given billable hour targets and a tradition that any work done specifically for a client is billed to the client, it makes sense for clients to pay for the de-briefing. Clients often spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on a specific legal matter. For a very small additional expenditure, clients could cause law firms to create a systematic de-briefing that the client would then have readily available for its own re-use, or for the re-use of outside counsel.

Of course, law firms would benefit as well because they would have incentives (the usual billable hours) to do the work and because they themselves would find it valuable to have their own work systematically "cataloged." But if most clients did this, they would benefit indirectly from the collective effort of law firms. Costs for all clients should fall if firms are more readily able to re-use know-how across matters and clients.

While there would be details to work out (e.g., sharing the debriefings and documents across outside counsel), a "pay for KM" system would work to the benefit of both inhouse counsel and law firms.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Expertise Location and Knowledge Management

When knowledge management first emerged as a distinct discipline several years ago, the focus, at least among law firms, was on capturing and re-using documents. Now, at least anecdotally, it seems there is as much discussion of locating experts within one's organization as there is on documents. And this is a good thing. Ultimately, it is often more useful to find an expert who can explain the context and point to documents rather than to find a document, which, standing alone is often hard to use.

The "expertise location management" product space is evolving and new options arising. I just came across an interesting product announcement from Entopia. According to a recent press release, the company has new software that helps identify experts: "By combining Entopia's dynamic expertise location with its visualization techniques, Entopia's latest application identifies the social networks within the enterprise related to a specific topic. These "people maps" instantly illustrate the subject matter experts, information bottlenecks and disconnected communities with an enterprise." I have not had a chance to learn more, but it sounds interesting.

Knowledge managers in law firms should consider their expertise location strategy as well as their document strategy. Like any aspect of KM, expertise location is more about process than technology. But there are interesting technology options that can help automate the process. By way of example, two horizontal expertise location management products are Kamoon and Tacit and two legal- market specific product (though both have broader functionality) are LawPort and AdvanceKnowledge.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Consolidation and Change in the Document Management Space

Document management systems (DMS) are an essential part of the infrastructure in most large law firms. A few do not use DMS or have created their own systems, but most use commercial products such as Hummingbird DM (formerly PC Docs) or iManage. Last August, Interwoven and iManage agreed to merge (see the press release). Last week, storage vendor EMC agreed to acquire DMS vendor Documentum (see Documentum press release and the article EMC Acquires Documentum in Portals Magazine).

The business dynamics of the DMS space may be changing and law firm technology managers - both operational and strategic - should keep an eye on the market. With luck, these changes will work to benefit law firms. I remember, however, an earlier chapter in the history of DMS. About 10 years ago a company called SoftSolutions was one of the first to market with a legal market DMS product. It was acquired by WordPefect, which in turn was acquired by Novell. Novell then "upgraded" SoftSolutions, though in the opinion of most law firms, that upgrade made the product virtually unusable because some key features were eliminated (e.g., client-matter lookups).

It's also important to keep in mind what Microsoft might do in this space. Between MS Sharepoint and discussions of a new file system based on SQL-Server in the next version of the Windows operating system (see, for example, Microsoft Details Longhorn Storage, it may be that a free-standing DMS will not be necessary in the future.

Law firms need not take any immediate action, but between what Microsoft may release and changes prompted by vendor consolidation, they may face some interesting choices in the next couple of years.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Knowledge Management and Law Firm Compensation

Law firm knowledge management professionals frequently discuss the impact of partner compensation systems on the interest in and ability of a firm to invest in KM. The general consensus is that firms with "lock step" partner compensation are better able to support significant KM initiatives than are firms with "eat what you kill" compensation. "Lock step" means that partner compensation depends only on partner seniority, not on new business nor on hours billed. In contrast, "eat what you kill" means compensation depends on new business generated and hours billed. Of course, many firms have a blend of the two models.

KM professionals have three good reasons for thinking that lock step systems support KM:
(1) Lock step firms tend to view clients on more of an institutional than individual lawyer basis. On balance, this makes the firm more willing to invest generally.
(2) Partners compensated based on their tenure do not need to worry on a daily basis about business generation or hours billed. On the margin therefore, partners are more willing to invest their time - or have associates invest their time - in contributing know-how to a central system.
(3) Firms with lock step systems tend to be more collegial and therefore more open to KM.

The link between compensation and interest/investment in KM has not been empirically proven to my knowledge. That said, there is some pretty good evidence. In particular, the large London-based firms, which tend to have lock step compensation systems, have invested significantly more in KM than have most US firms, which tend not to have pure lock step systems. Furthermore, a few of the US firms with lock step systems (or at least leaning heavily in that direction) are the ones that tend to invest more in KM.

So, it is with interest that I read an item on law.com today that suggests pressures may be developing against UK firms maintaining their primarily lock step systems. In Clifford Chance Loses Four Partners to Weil Gotshal, the New York Law Journal reports that Clifford Chance has just lost four top antitrust partners to Weil Gotshal. The departing partners say that compensation was not a factor - the problem was conflicts. Nonetheless, these departures come "at a time when the British firm [Clifford Chance] is conducting a review aimed at determining whether or not it should bend its traditional lockstep compensation scheme."

Of course, many in the legal profession will watch the large UK firms and their compensation systems for a variety of reasons. KM professionals should especially keep an eye on this issue with particular emphasis on the impact on KM initiatives.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Expertise Location (McKinsey Quarterly Article)

Knowledge management professionals frequently consider the question of how best to identify and locate experts within a large law firm. The current issue of the McKinsey Quarterly has an article titled Do You Know Who Your Experts Are? (Appears in the 2003, #4 edition - subscription required to access.)

The article notes that finding experts in a large organization is difficult. The authors note that companies that carefully manage other assets such as inventory and cash are rather cavalier about how they manage expertise. This is changing: "a growing number of companies... have adopted more systematic approaches to both finding and leveraging expertise."

The traditional approaches say the author - an expertise database or "mining" documents for pointers to expertise - can be replaced with new search technologies. "Achievements" of employees define their expertise. The authors say that using typical internal corporate sources, it is possible to find people with relevant achievements. They say that "internal databases can usually be assessed with considerable precision." All it takes is the right search engine that can access and sift multiple data sources (such as HR, accounting, knowledge management, and recruiting databases).

This article is helpful in increasing corporate awareness of the need for expertise location. I fear, however, that it oversimplifies both the process and technology and makes some unsupported assertions (for example, the reliability of internal data sources). The article would have served readers better had it presented some case studies and some specific technology solutions working against real databases.

Many law firms have struggled with expertise location and few have found a perfect solution. KM professionals discuss the automated approaches suggested by this article, as well as purely manual approaches that rely on lawyer self-assessment of their own expertise.

Though the article does not mention it, I suspect the authors have in mind a product like ExpertSeek Services by Digital Self. Future posts will discuss in more detail approaches to capturing expertise.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Getting Closer to Clients - Learning from General Electric (GE)

In Will Jeff Immelt's New Push Pay Off for GE, Business Week (October 13, 2003) reports on an interesting initiative by General Electric. (A subscription is required to access this article.)

Jeff Immelt, GE's still relatively new CEO, is, according to Business Week, trying to increase GE's sales and profits by helping GE customers be more successful. One way GE is doing this is by sharing its best practices - at no apparent charge - with its customers. The story opens with a description of how GE sent teams of black-belt Six Sigma specialists (GE's term for people who are schooled in applying rigorous techniques to reduce defects and improve quality) to help Southwest Airlines address numerous operational problems, none related to GE products or services Southwest buys. Immelt says that up to 40% of customers are interested in such help. After describing some other ways GE helps customers, much of the article discusses whether this initiative will work and some problems GE faces in implementing it.

I have posted frequently on the potential value to law firms - both for purposes of production (that is, doing the work) and marketing - of identifying and adopting best practices. Beyond affirming some of my prior arguments, the fact that not only is GE "doing best practices," but now is even promoting them to its customers raises two interesting questions....

1 .What if GE came knocking on the door of some of its large outside counsel with the same proposition? How many large law firms would be comfortable allowing GE productivity and quality improvement specialists inside their doors to examine, comment on, and offer suggestions for how to improve law firm working practices? At most firms, I suspect GE experts would not find that best practices were in use; nor would they find uniform application of technology to support production processes. While the goal of the GE initiative is to help its customers, it would not be hard to imagine applying the same principles to GE suppliers, only with a stick rather than a carrot.

2. How many law firms that do work for GE would be comfortable making a similar offer to the GE law department? Granted, the GE law department is as big and sophisticated as many large law firms. So teaching the GE law department a trick or two might be quite hard. My sense, however, is that most large law firms would not even consider such a gesture. First, it is just not in the mindset to do so. And second, were they to consider it, they would probably be quite fearful of what the outcome might be.

GE has been a leader in management techniques for decades. Forward thinking law firms should at least undertake the thought experiments implied by the two questions above. Of course, the CIO and CKO should be part of the discussion as technology is integral to any best practices program.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

More Full Text Technology from IBM

In my posting IBM is Developing New Search Technology of 13 Aug 2003 I discussed new full-text software from IBM called Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA). On September 13, 2003, the New York Times carried short piece reporting that IBM is introducing a new full-text service called WebFountain.

On its venture development web site, IBM describes WebFountain as "a new text analytics technology from IBM's Research division that analyzes millions of pages of data weekly. Using this technology, organizations can access critical business information and uncover valuable insights that are otherwise difficult and costly to acquire by manual methods." The IBM Almaden Research Center web site has some more information

This sounds very promising for both knowledge management and litigation support applications. Of course, as I have noted in prior postings, there are many interesting full-text technologies and evaluating them (and the cost-benefit trade-offs) is difficult. With IBM's history of innovation, this bears watching for those in the legal market. Also note that IBM now is specifically serving the legal market, including litigation management.

Being the eager type, I requested about 10 days ago more information (i.e., a white paper) via e-mail to a WebFountain information e-mail address. To date, I have not received a reply, which is surprising, especially in light of a litigation management offering. Nonetheless, I will keep my eye out because the IBM Systems Journal has accepted a paper in preliminary abstract form that describes WebFountain.

Monday, October 06, 2003

The Business Case for and Background on "Offshoring" Professional Work

I have written several posts about the potential of outsourcing legal work overseas (Law Firms Outsourcing IT and Document Production, 27 Sep 03; Power Outages and Outsourcing , 15 Aug 03; Technology Outsourcing Example - Document Management , 18 Jun 03; More on Off-Shore Outsourcing, 14 Jun 03; Central Back Offices and Outsourcing; 30 May 03). Among other points I make is that that law firms and law departments should consider outsourcing certain tasks performed by lawyers here in the USA (or the UK for that matter) to lawyers in India or other countries where lawyers are trained in English common law and cost much less than in the USA.

My old friend, Eric Mankin, is a business consultant who specializes in innovation, new products, and new ways of doing business. He has an impressive background (check his Innovation & Business Architectures web site) and has thought hard and deeply about many important business issues. His weekly e-mail update today provided some interesting background and perspective on the question of "offshoring" the work of professionals and knowledge workers. With his permission, I have reproduced it here.

From Eric Mankin (click here if you'd like to e-mail him)
The steel strike of 1959 shut down 90 % of US steel production for 116 days. In shutting down production, the US industry opened the door to steel imports, which had been a negligible factor before the strike.

Because they couldn’t purchase steel from their usual US suppliers, buyers were forced to look for alternate sources, and they found that steel produced by Japanese or Koreans could meet their needs at lower cost. This marked the start of the decline of the integrated US steel industry.

The information technology explosion had similar effects on the American software industry. In the late 1990s, purchasers of programming found that they couldn’t buy it in the United States or Europe. This wasn’t because of a strike; rather, for a few brief moments, there wasn’t enough programming capacity to meet exploding demand.

India played the same role in the capacity crunch of the late ‘90s that Japan played in the steel strike of 1959. India-based companies started as an unproven supplier of programming, but have rapidly become world-class providers of software coding, and have expanded into many other computer-related business processes, from backoffice to customer service.

Forrester, the market research firm, estimates that offshoring will grow at 30-40% a year for the next 5 years. They believe that 3.3 million jobs will be transferred due to offshoring between now and 2015. They estimate that 400,000 jobs have moved offshore, although estimates from places like economy.com run as much as 50% higher.

Applying the “four question” framework to offshoring reveals why it’s such a compelling product. Offshoring excels across three of the four criteria required to guarantee a product’s success. Compared to domestic alternatives, offshoring is cheaper and provides higher quality. The growth of intermediaries such as Wipro and Infosys makes offshoring easy to buy.

It fails only in its ease of use. All of the managers who work with offshoring warn about the difficulties of working across time zones, and of the importance of managing offshored operations closely.

Last week, I spoke at a venture capital conference in Boston, and offshoring was part of the discussion in a large number of the sessions. If you are forming a company that has customer service or technology needs, you have to consider India or the Philippines for getting this work done. As Jeff Robinson, the VP of Customer Care at UPromise, noted: “We couldn’t be in business if it weren’t for the cost advantages of having our customer service in India.”

At one point in the conference, a panel of CIOs from companies like Teradyne and Millennium Pharmaceuticals noted that they were all using offshore development houses for some part of their work. Which prompted John Logan, from the Aberdeen Group, to ask: “When will the CIOs themselves be offshored?”

If offshoring grows at the rate predicted by Forrester, what happens to all those software engineers, call center representatives, and CIOs in the US and Europe?

Economics provides a rose-colored answer – all of these workers are now freed up to tackle new jobs of even higher value. An August 2003 report from the McKinsey Global Institute framed it this way: “The United States has the world’s most dynamic economy and is fully able to generate new jobs … While still receiving services that employees were previously engaged in, the economy will now generate additional output, (and thus income) when these workers take new jobs.”

Personally, I would find this argument more convincing if McKinsey could give some examples of the kinds of new high-valued jobs that these 3.3 million displaced knowledge workers are going to be taking. If you have any suggestions that come to mind, please send them along.

I recently visited a beautiful new research facility on the banks of Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River. Carnegie Mellon has a building in the complex, as does Sunoco Chemicals. My hosts pointed out to me that, forty years ago, the same site was the home of a huge Jones & Laughlin integrated steel mill.

The steel strike of 1959 was the beginning of the end of J&L’s mill, and the local economy built a research facility in its place.

Now, however, companies like Sunoco can get the same research done by equally qualified personnel in places like India or China. Fifty years from now, what structure will stand where the research facility exists today?

For more information:
-The steel history comes from the Wikipedia’s entry on US Steel
-The McKinsey Global Institute published a report in August 2003 that gives facts and figures on offshoring.
-Offshoring as experienced by a hospital services buyer
- There’s a site that is 100% maintained in the USA – it’s Washtech – the website of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, Communications Workers of America, Local 37083, AFL-CIO
- This just in: The New York Times of 5 October provided a range of estimates of job loss in the U.S., as well as examples of Offshoring moving up the chain

So, in the legal market, will there be some one-time, "virtual accident" that causes a firm or law department to use lawyers in India and suddenly the market will realize what sense it makes? Only time will tell, but forward thinking organizations should be experimenting with this approach.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Value Billing / Alternative Billing and Technology

The current (Fall 2003) issue of Law Firm, Inc. magazine has a very good article about why law firms need to think harder about value billing. In Stop the Clock & Make More Money, Jeffrey Carr and Mark Wolf, respectively the general counsel and assistant general counsel of FMC Technologies, Inc., argue clearly that the billable hour and the interests of inhouse counsel are not aligned.

They characterize the billable hour as a "recipe for customer backlash and attorney malaise" and make clear that general counsels don't want to buy what law firms sell, namely an inventory of hours. Rather, they want to achieve results and are willing "to pay for a law firm's efficiency." The authors describe various billing models FMC uses that align their outside counsel's interests with FMC. In one approach, for example, FMC holds a portion of standard billable hour fees and, based on defined criteria such as timeliness, value, and efficient use of technology, pay between 0 and 200% of the holdback. The goal is "to pay our outside counsel a higher effective hourly rate - we just want to buy less inventory and... condition that higher rate upon success." In their view, risk sharing arrangements can work in any matter, even highly complex and unique ones.

The market pressure illustrated by FMC's actions should, over time, cause firms to become more efficient and effective. As firms bear the risk of inventory (that is, their hours) going to waste, they will have incentives to use technology in time saving ways such as re-using work product, automatically generating documents, and communicating more clearly with their clients.

At the end of the article, the authors suggest that law firms put away brochures, ads, and branding and focus instead on what customer want as opposed to selling what law firms have. While technology is not a guarantee to providing more efficient and effective service, it is certainly a key ingredient. Firms that successfully service the FMCs of the world will likely be the ones that not only buy technology, but really figure out how to use it.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Technology for Law Firm Marketing and Its Implications

Yesterday I heard Swati Agrawal of firmseek and Anne Balduzzi, a legal and technology marketing consultant, present on "Using Technology to Make the Most of Your Marketing Dollars" at a an event hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA).

Swati and Anne emphasized the importance of using a single database to drive the marketing function. Maintaining marketing materials such as lawyer biographies, practice area descriptions, and standard cover letters in a central database offers two key advantages. First, it allows firms quickly and easily to produce, modify, and update both print and digital media. And second (this one was music to my ears), it allows firms to create Web-based versions of proposals. This means that clients can navigate proposals for content of particular interest and firms can track hits to learn what clients find most useful.

I was surprised by a show of hands at the beginning of the session. When the speakers asked how many of the attendees had recently spoken to their technology colleagues, only a few hands went up. CIOs who manage databases and CKOs who manage knowledge repositories should take steps to be aware of the needs and resources of their firm's marketing department. On the one hand, there is a potential challenge in having to manage yet another repository. On the other hand, there are opportunities to integrate and combine data sources to provide better quality information and knowledge at lower cost. For example, firms that want to create an expertise database (skills locater) might consider whether they could at least get a first cut at lawyer expertise by doing full-text searches of the bios.

Law firms would be better off if they rose to the challenge of supporting marketing department technology needs and worked to integrate marketing data both at a technical level and as a knowledge resource.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Office 2003 - Who Owns the Keys to the Kingdom?

In Office Buzz: Check the E-mail on September 25, 2003, the New York Times reviews Office 2003, the latest Microsoft upgrade to the Office suite. The review is mixed at best. The columnist notes that "Microsoft has made shockingly few changes to Word, Excel and PowerPoint." In contrast, Outlook has many new features. But the review is not the main point here...

The review notes that the corporate edition is "crawling with features that work only on networks." One of those is "Information Rights Management" or IRM. This feature allows users to determine "who can do what" with documents and messages, including controlling access to documents (view or print) and specifying destruction dates. See Microsoft's technical information on IRM for more information.

While protecting data has its benefits, lawyers need to be aware of who has a "master key" to open locked documents. Depending on how IRM works and is administered, it is possible that at least in some law firms, client organizations, or home offices, users will be able to create documents that are encrypted in ways that make it difficult or impossible to open them. As Peter Coffee points out in The Best DRM Policy May Be No Policy at All in eWeek's September 8th issue, "rights management technologies represent yet another way for the enterprise to lock crucial information inside containers defined and controlled by others."

Administered properly, IRM has the potential to protect privacy and confidentiality. But as Coffee suggests, problems may be lurking if users can create documents that cannot be easily opened. This would make it hard for law firms to access their own work product or to view documents in an e-discovery process.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?